Thursday, October 17, 2013

The ten albums every man could own if they were so inclined

I've always vowed to turn down any invite from that venerated old lady of BBC Radio, Desert Island Discs, because it would just be impossible to reach any conclusion on either what items I could be stranded on the eponymous mound (e.g. which of four guitars, what from the collection of Goon Show CDs, iPad or MacBook, etc).

Harder still would be to arrive at a selection of music to be 'saved' from the hypothetical situation that had me stranded  there in the first place.

But today, thanks to Twitter, the collective dander of High Fidelity fans everywhere has been elevated by an article in the Daily Telegraph by Capital Radio breakfast DJ Dave Berry, in which he proffered his selection of the Ten Albums Every Man Should Own.

Of course, no man should be told what albums he should own, let alone ten anythings he should own. Which is why Twitter went nuts, ending with Berry writing an updated piece for the Telegraph - "Dave Berry's Ten Best Albums - a further thought" in which he explained away the rationale behind including the likes of the Rocky IV soundtrack, What's The Story Morning Glory, Ed Sheeran's - +, the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, The Best Of John Lee HookerSgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Arctic Monkeys' Whatever People Say I Am, That¹s What I'm Not and Quadrophenia.

"Dealing with the subject of musical taste," Berry wrote in an updated piece, "I always knew this list would provoke discussion. Showing the list to my friends and colleagues ahead of publication certainly helped me prepare for the colourful language." 

Well, hell may hath no fury as a woman scorned, but when it comes to writing lists about bloke stuff, run for the hills my friend. So, as I tighten the laces on the Nike Airs, here is What Would David Bowie Do?'s suggestions for the ten albums a man could own if he was so inclined:

The Stone Roses - I Am The Resurrection

Let's come to an understanding: a chap's record collection should serve a number of purposes, from projecting eclectic erudition to giving bored party guests something to pour over. Somewhere between the two should be an album that - as I discovered back in the summer when the Roses came to an intimate, sweaty theatre in Paris - just makes you want to go nuts for 50 minutes. This is that album.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Born To Run

He's the bloke's bloke, and thus, Born To Run is the bloke's bloke's bloke album: a denim-clad, oil-stained paean to rock'n'roll, Saturday nights, cars, girls, New Jersey bars and the timeless joys of being, well, a bloke's bloke.

Marvin Gaye - What's Going On

In 1971, when this came out, white rock was immersed in gargantuan concept albums and double-gatefold epics. At 35 minutes, What's Going On is barely longer than some of the guitar solos being put down on vinyl by Brer Rock Star. But here was one of Motown's greatest stars, struggling with depression and other demons, making one of the greatest - and shortest - albums ever, and an impassioned kick-in-the-nuts about what was going on in the world - Gaye's included.

The Beastie Boys - Licensed To Ill

I recognise that, Marvin's album, above, not withstanding, this list is pretty white and male. So including the Beasties doesn't exactly move the needle of diversity. To men of a certain age - mine, actually - this was the album that left them stranded between their rock dependency and fading teenage decadence. It was clever, it was funny, it had loud guitars, it had hip-hop rhythms, and it was the result of three middle class New York smart-arses who revelled in extending their collective middle finger at everything that was good and holy in popular music. Punk started in New York and reactionary British types took it over. These three Yankee boys stole it right back and shook it up totally.

Blondie - Parallel Lines

In 1978, when this came out, the audience that embraced it the most didn't have a clue about political correctness, and probably wouldn't have cared either. All they got was that Debbie Harry was hotter than August in Arizona, that Blondie were cooler than August in Antarctica, and that punk didn't have to be about surfing oceans of phlegm in polytechnic refectories.

The Clash - London Calling

Arguably the best album cover ever (hats off, Pennie Smith), this was a double album - a double album! - something then associated with concept albums and rock operas. It embraced grown-up issues via a never-ceasingly enjoyable cauldron of rock, reggae, funk and rockabilly, with downbeat themes of urban decay, unemployment and social deprivation mixed in. And its title song features Joe Strummer cheekily starting to sing Marty Robbins' Singing The Blues in the outro, but stopping short to avoid paying a royalty.

The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street

You'll have noticed that this list hardly features anything made in the last 30 years. Deal with it. You'll also notice that it doesn't feature any Bowie, Hendrix, Steely Dan, Prince, Ian Dury, Sex Pistols, Paul Weller, John Martyn, The Smiths, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and a million more I could mention. I'm dealing with it. Something had to give. What couldn't is this by The Other Greatest Rock Band In The World™ (a fence-sitting statement as I'm not even going to attempt to separate Beatles from Stones). But I digress. Exile is the album that anyone who cares about music, who has, even for the briefest moments of adolescent departure, imagined themselves in a band, would have wanted to recorded. You could argue whether it's a Keith record, or a Mick record, or a Glimmer Twins record, or whether Charlie and Bill ultimately tied it all together, with Mick Taylor providing the ribbon. But whatever came together in the South of France stands tall 42 years later. Blues, soul, country, rock - it's all here. Oh, and Keith singing Happy.

The Who - Who's Next

No, not a collection of CSI franchise theme songs, but a brilliantly efficient album, packed with hits that shouldn't have been - Won't Get Fooled Again, Behind Blue Eyes, Baba O'Reilly, Bargain...the list goes on. This was 1971, when the 60s were finally giving way to the sort of concept The Beatles had trailed with Sgt. Pepper. Except this was being written by a Pete Townshend dealing with his dark visions of a future run by machines, long before anyone had heard of the Web. A thrilling album from start to finish. And man, what a finish.

The Beatles - Revolver

I know. I know. More rock. But who cares, it's The Beatles. The B-E-A-T-L-E-S. They're on the list whether you like it or not. And Revolver - over any of their other great albums, which is most of them - is here because it's the album on which you can actually hear the 1960s jog on from asinine pop. This is the record on which pop finally left behind post-war manners and two-and-a-half-minute love songs, in which the producer was more schoolteacher than integral to the creative process. As a result, there's the wry cynicsm of Taxman, the melancholy of Eleanor Rigby and Here, There and Everywhere, the nursery school, English eccentric singalong of Yellow Submarine, the Britpop prototype of She Said She Said, the ebullience of Good Day Sunshine and Got To Get You Into My Life (do check out Joe Pesci's version...), and the moment that progressive rock was invented, Tomorrow Never Knows. There could be better Beatles albums, but the margins of difference are so thin, you may as well go with the one that feels right. Revolver is it.

Frank Sinatra - Songs For Swingin' Lovers!

I'm not even going to make an argument for this one. Just consider that, in 1956, probably the coolest gent to ever grace a recording studio committed to tape at LA's Capitol Records Studios 15 classics, including You Make Me Feel So YoungIt Happened in MontereyI've Got You Under My Skin and Swingin' Down the Lane, before heading off into Beverly Hills for some fine dining experience with a coterie of equally cool acquaintances. Short of being Steve McQueen in Bullitt, owning this album will bring the chap close enough. Cool enough to be found in the Walls Ice Cream chest in your local sweetshop. 

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